Chichen Itza is an archaeological site in the Yucatan state in Mexico built by the Maya and is one of the most popular attractions there with over 2.6 million tourists in 2017 alone. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the new seven wonders of the world. Read on to learn more about why this is a must-see attraction in Mexico.
Life in Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza was one of the largest and most diverse Maya cities and this is why you will find more than one type architectural style there. Its name means ‘the mouth at the well of Itza’ and many think “Itza” means “water magicians.” This might be traced back to the fact that there were two sinkholes close to the site which would have provided water year-round to its citizens. The people were sculptors, weavers, jewelers and potters
The Maya built all of the buildings from stone. It’s also thought that the Maya did no use the wheel to build any of their temples, pyramids or palaces. At the center of the site, you’ll find El Castillo (“the Castle”) also known as the Temple of Kukulkan, which is the famous pyramid synonymous with Chichen Itza. Interestly, this pyramid was built over another older temple. On the first day of spring and fall, the rays of the sun create a shadow across the Kukulkan Pyramid that makes it look like a serpent is sliding down the staircase. At this pyramid, there is a platform dedicated to the planet Venus because the Mayans were serious astronomers and the movements of this planet were especially important to them. In fact, Venus’ movements inspired the architecture of Uxmal, another ancient Mayan city.
While many people think of El Castillo when they think of Chichen Itza, there are actually several other pyramids there. One of them is The Osario which has a natural cave at its core and is has the same basic structure of El Catillo but is smaller.
The Ball Court
The Ball Court is another popular part of Chichen Itza that many people visit and was the largest field in Mesoamerica. It was over twice the size of a football field. The walls have inverted hoops placed in the center of them. The most popular game was named Pitz. The goal was to get the rubber ball through the hoop without using your hands. While it was mainly used for games, it might have also been used for feasts, ceremonies, and wrestling events as well. An interesting feature of the Ball Court is that it was built so that you could use its acoustics to communicate with others who were much further away on the field. So, if you said something face the northern wall, those near the southern wall could hear it as well.
The Temple of Warriors
The Temple of Warriors was built by Toltec conquerors in 950 AD and is 131 feet wide. It has four platforms and two of them contain 200 round and square columns. At the top, there is a Chac Mool. A Chac Mool is a sculpture of a reclining figure with its head facing 90 degrees from the front, supporting itself on its elbows and supporting a bowl or a disk upon its stomach. They were used to hold sacrificial offerings to the gods including food such as tamales or tortillas to other objects such as colorful feathers, tobacco or flowers. Some believe they placed the beating hearts of sacrificial victims here as well.
There are many more parts of Chichen Itza but hopefully you see why it is considered one of the most incredible places to see in the Yucatan (and the world). The contributions its people made to history make it one of the most fascinating places to go.
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